Silent Spring 2.0 Awaits While Governments Ignore Calls for a Neonicotinoid Moratorium

By Jodi Koberinski, OCO Advocacy Working Group.
June 28th 2014.

The time for indecision and “benefit of the doubt” decision-making is long past. The weight of a recent study known as the Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA), undertaken by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, requires that Canada’s policy response is that neonicotinoid pesticides must be banned by Health Canada. Scientists are providing the overwhelming evidence that we are on a shaky path where science and policy are not in harmony, and unscrupulous business interests are putting profit before principle, dividends before diversity. And the party simply will not last.

The Worldwide Integrated Assessment on Systemic Pesticides Study reviewed more than 800 scientific papers and concluded that the impacts of neonicotinoid pesticides go far beyond honey bees, affecting butterflies, birds and amphibians. Whole ecosystems are threatened by indiscriminate use of these systemic pesticides which we’ve had in ubiquitous use for less than a decade.

What we have been saying for years at the Organic Council of Ontario is that our regulations are based on methods from the scientific dark ages. The most telling conclusion from the WIA report supports this critique:

“The classic measurements used to assess the toxicity of a pesticide (short‐term lab toxicity results) are not effective for systemic pesticides and conceal their true impact. They typically only measure direct acute effects rather than chronic effects via multiple routes of exposure. In the case of acute effects alone, some neonics are at least 5,000 to 10,000 times more toxic to bees than DDT.”

And since our regulations don’t ask for data to extend multi-generationally, such impacts might not be seen in a standard LD50 assessment. This is what we affectionately refer to as the “wack and kill” level. And it has no meaning in a world where the -icide in question operates systemically.

And once again, we at OCO call on both provincial and federal governments to engage in a regulatory modernization of the novel foods act. Canadians also deserve from their regulator, in light of the mounting evidence and the damning conclusions of this survey of the literature, a complete re-examination of the Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency process, past approvals, and permitted substances lists for domestic and imported foods alike.

Science requires it. Our legislation requires it. The time to act is now, a moratorium on neonicotinoids is the only responsible course of action.

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